Can these 3D printed gills turn you into Aquaman?

This invention may not be ready to replace scuba gear, but it could be a peek into our future
gills 3d printed Heading out? Remember to put on your gills! (Mikito Tateisi)

Next to flying, being able to swim freely underwater is probably one of humanity's earliest—and most difficult to realize—wishes. Yes, we have airplanes and hang-gliders, submarines and scuba gear, but to be able to do these things as naturally as we can walk and jump would be truly incredible.

That's probably why being able to fly is second only to superhuman strength on the list of powers that comic book superheroes have. But while maybe only Aquaman is known as the superhero who can breathe underwater, we think that comic books have seriously undersold this ability. Many scientists argue that we know more about outer space than we do about the depths of our own oceans. What if going for a deep dive was a simple as going on a hike? Think of what could be discovered!

Where there's a gill, there's a way

Now a Japanese researcher and inventor named Jun Kamei is suggesting a way that humans might become more aquatic. How? By 3D printing our own gills! His project is called Amphibio and it is a pretty amazing idea. Want to have a peek at these watery wonders? Watch this video!

Oxygen sponge

As you may know, gills are the respiratory organ of fish and most other aquatic organisms. They are made up of lots of delicate filaments, or folded tissue, like an accordion. This bio design is necessary to increase the possible surface area of the organ—there is so little oxygen in water compared to what we breathe in air, fish need all of the help that they can get.

A fish's gills are normal hidden under flaps, but underneath they look like this:


When you look at that picture, the "gills" used in Amphibio make a lot of sense. Its designer uses biomimicry to create them, a technique where you copy an object, structure, or organ found in nature. The Amphibio gills have the same accordion design as real gills, and are even worn around a person's neck like a bib. (A fish's gills are also located around the neck area.)

Thanks to these similarities, Amphibio is better able to draw oxygen out of the water and release CO2 (the carbon dioxide that we breathe out) back into it.

Stay out of the water ... for now

This is amazing science! But is it an invention that is ready to go for a swim with an actual human? No, not quite yet.

Though the invention technically works, right now it needs a lot more "gill" surface area to extract the amount of oxygen from the water that humans require. But it wouldn't be the first breakthrough idea that just needs a little more time and experimenting to become reliable tech.

In other words, though we're not holding our breath, we're definitely excited!

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